Four children, including newborn, 'falsely' taken from Russian mother in Finland

Children of the second grade in a primary school in Finland. (AFP Photo / Olivier Morin)
A Russian woman claimed Finnish authorities took her four children, including an infant, after falsely accusing her family of child abuse. The traumatized family will be apart for at least six months, while awaiting a court hearing.

­Anastasia Zavgorodnyaya, a 29-year-old Russian-born resident of Vantaa, Finland, and her husband said that they were shocked when their children – aged between one week and six years old – were taken into state custody and put in a foster home.

In late August, Zavgorodnyaya's oldest daughter Veronika was injured at school, she said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The girl's head struck a wall when she was allegedly pushed by older boys; a teacher witnessed the incident and escorted her to bathroom after Veronika became dizzy, and then helped her to a sofa.

The head trauma caused a concussion, a medical examination later revealed.

Zavgorodnaya is married to Ehab Ahmed Zaki Ahmed, a Sudanese national who has lived in Finland for 18 years. They took Veronika to a hospital in Helsinki after the girl’s speech became impaired from the injury.

The parents reported the incident to the school, and the headmaster promised to speak with teachers that witnessed the incident, Zavgorodnyaya said. Several days later, the headmaster called back and said that Veronika’s story was a lie, since she could not find any teachers who had seen the scuffle.

After the school refused to give them a statement about the incident, Zavgorodnyaya said she turned to social services. On September 7, instead of going to the school, social workers went to the Helsinki hospital where Veronika was being treated and took her away.

Zavgorodnyaya later had a brief encounter with her daughter in Helsinki that turned ugly: She refused to let go of her crying child, and social workers called police, who allegedly ripped the girl from her mother's arms.

“They grabbed me by both hands and dragged me away through the corridor. I was in the ninth month of pregnancy at the time, waiting for my fourth [child] to come,” she said.

Her husband was pushed to the floor and handcuffed, and both parents were taken to a police station and fined for resisting police, Zavgorodnyaya said.

During their absence, social workers went to the kindergarten their two-year-old twins Ahmed and Maryam were attending to take custody of the two children as well. “They said we should not bother going to the kindergarden, because social workers have already taken them,” she said.

A week later, the family received an official notice stating that they posed a danger to their children. The document said that, while being examined in Helsinki, Veronika allegedly told doctors that her father “slapped her below the waist,” and that the doctors believed her head injury may have been sustained at home.

For twenty days, the mother and father were reportedly allowed to see the twins only once. Zavgorodnyaya claimed that they appeared to have lost weight.

During this period, she gave birth to her son Yasin. When he was a week old, he was taken from Zavgorodnyaya, and social services would not allow her to see or breastfeed her child, she said.

All four of Zavgorodnyaya's children now live with the same adoptive family. Social services have not provided her or her husband with any further details, claiming they “do not have the right to know them,” she said.

Her letters and requests to Finnish authorities have also yielded nothing, nor the Russian diplomats' request addressed to the social services, she said.

The family hired a lawyer who has argued that the social service is clearly in the wrong, and that a judge will likely take the family’s side when their appeal is brought before the court. However, due to the large number of such cases they may have to wait as long as six months before the hearing; their children will remain with their adoptive family until then.

They plan to move from Finland to Russia once the family is reunited, Zavgorodnyaya said.

“Living in Finland is impossible,” she said. “Even if the kids are released, the social service will put us on blacklist and will monitor our every step. Any complaint, even from a drunken stranger, and we will lose our children again until a new court.”